When Ken Jackson first moved to the Lake Norman area in 2005, one of the first places he visited was the Energy Explorium at Duke Energy’s McGuire Power Station in Huntersville.Jackson, an HVAC specialist, had seen roadside signs for the education center as he was familiarizing himself with the area.“It looked like it would be an interesting place to visit, and we weren’t disappointed,” said Jackson, 62, a Long Island, N.Y., native. His experience is being repeated every week as hundreds of people, from elementary school students to senior citizens groups, spend time at the facility, which offers several interactive exhibits on subjects ranging from saving energy to tracking weather.“The explorium opened in 1985, while McGuire went into commercial operation in 1981,” said Christine Pulley, Duke Energy spokesperson. “Though it was not required as part of the NRC’s licensing procedure, Duke felt it would be a productive way to be a good neighbor and educate our visitors about nuclear energy.”The concept has proven popular. “Over the past five years we’ve seen about a 12 percent increase per year in the number of people we’ve impacted; everything from visitors stopping by our facility to all the internal and external programs and events held at and off our site,” Pulley said.Quite often, visitors will communicate with the staff after a visit. “We had an awesome time,” said Shannon Monroe of Charlotte’s Harding University High School in an e-mail to the explorium. “The students were enthralled in the new knowledge that was gained during their visit.”In addition to the interactive displays, the explorium also has an 80-seat auditorium with audio/visual technology that is available for free to local business meetings or community groups. Visitors can also enjoy a mile-long nature trail that borders Lake Norman and a picnic shelter next to a butterfly garden.One of the unique features of the explorium is its extensive movie collection with a wide selection of subjects. The videos vary in length from five to 30 minutes. One such movie, called “The Great Inland Sea,” is one of the most popular, including some rare video footage about Lake Norman explaining how and why it was built.Duke has education centers at two other nuclear sites: World of Energy at Oconee Nuclear Station near Clemson, S.C.; and the Energy and Environmental Center at Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant near Raleigh. Another one, at the Catawba Nuclear Station, had to be closed after the 9-11 attacks because it was located beyond the plant’s security checkpoint. Visitors to the McGuire Energy Explorium do not have to go through any security checkpoints. Pulley says that only about 25 percent of the nation’s nuclear stations have education centers. “The explorium is rather unique in that we are open to the public six days a week and we welcome walk-in visitors.”
Monday, Apr. 01, 2013
Energy Explorium has meaning for visitors of all ages
This generation station display at Duke's Energy Explorium shows how electricity is made through both fossil fuel and hydro-electric plants.
This auditorium at the Energy Explorium, which seats up to 80 people, is equipped with modern audio/visual equipment. The room is also available for local business meetings or community groups at no charge.
Want to visit? The McGuire Nuclear Station Energy Explorium is located at 13339 Hagers Ferry Road, off N.C. 73 in Huntersville, near the South Lake Christian School/Church complex. It is open 9-5 Monday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free, and arrangements can be made for group and school tours. The explorium is handicap-accessible. Call 800-777-0003 for information.